On March 7-8, the Brewers Association hosted a coalition of U.S. hop farmers, suppliers, and brewers in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the event was to work with our supply chain partners to educate members of Congress and their staff about the business of hops. It also served to emphasize the critical importance of public hop research to Congress and decision-makers at the United States Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS).
The United States is the number one producer of aromatic hops in the world, driven in large part by the growth of the craft brewing community and its insatiable demand for hops. The rest of the world is also seeking our amazing hops—up to 50 percent of the hops grown here are exported to other countries.
The government plays an important role in hop research through USDA-ARS. The D.C. coalition advocated for increased funding for ongoing USDA-ARS public hop research and breeding for the purpose of developing and releasing disease-resistant aroma hop cultivars into the public domain. Releasing hop cultivars with no intellectual property protection ensures that all growers have access to high quality and disease-resistant cultivars needed to sustain production and quality at levels required by brewers.
The increased funding would augment the funds that the Brewers Association has committed to in a trust agreement with USDA-ARS, providing support for expanded public hop research and breeding in Washington and Oregon. In the long-term, this important program will fuel efforts of existing legacy growers as well as nascent hop growing operations throughout the U.S.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have both spearheaded letters to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations calling for $1.8 million for public hops research conducted by USDA-ARS. Coalition members from Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Virginia visited 30 Congressional offices to lobby in support of appropriations funding, plant protection and harmonization efforts, export development program funding, practical labor solutions for hop growers and their workers, and making the federal excise tax reduction permanent.
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In addition to the meetings, attendees also joined the Brewers Association for a joint House and Senate Small Brewers Caucus event, which featured a panel discussion about hops and beer. Panelists included brewer Scott Dorsch from Odell Brewing Company (Fort Collins, Colo.), hop dealer Alex Barth from John I. Haas (Washington, Idaho, and Oregon), and hop grower Fred Geschwill of F&B Farms (Woodburn, Ore.), who discussed their different roles in hop production and use. DeFazio, co-chair of the House Small Brewers Caucus, contributed remarks about the bipartisanship of beer.
Barth invited attendees to try their hand at a sensory analysis of brewer’s cuts of Centennial and CitraTM hops. He demonstrated how to rub and smell the hops to experience their unique aromas firsthand, underscoring the varied flavor outcomes that arise from different hop varietals.
Attendees then sampled hop-forward craft beers provided by Brewers Association member breweries to make the connection between hops and their important contributions to beer flavor. Stone Brewing’s Richmond, Va. facility provided Stone IPA and Stone Tangerine Express IPA, brewed with public hop varietals including Centennial. Odell Brewing Company served two beer brands including Wolf Picker, a pale ale that uses new hop variety StrataTM along with an experimental hop grown at Goschie Farms in Oregon.
The successful meeting with USDA-ARS, lobbying day, and Small Brewers Caucus event underscored the commitment of the Brewers Association, along with small and independent brewers, to work with our supply chain partners and support local products. To learn more about the work the BA is doing to support hop farmers, barley growers, and other industry partners, click the Best Practices tab on BrewersAssociation.org, an invaluable resource for brewery owners and employees. Resources include a list of hop growers from 30 states, identified by hop grower code.